- Moderna has struck its second genetic medicine deal in a month, announcing Thursday it will team with Massachusetts-based Generation Bio to develop new treatments using its nonviral delivery technology.
- Under the deal, Moderna has an option to license Generation Bio’s delivery tools for use in up to two immune cell programs and two for the liver, with an additional option for another program. Moderna will pay $40 million upfront and take an equity stake in Generation Bio, as well as pay for all collaboration work.
- For Moderna, the deal comes on the heels of a gene editing partnership it signed with Life Edit Therapeutics in late February and its first acquisition, a buyout of OriCiro Genomics, in January. Shares of Generation Bio rose by as much as 30% in trading Thursday.
Moderna, flush with more than $18 billion in cash at the end of 2022 from revenue generated by its COVID-19 vaccine, has been reinvesting some of that money in search of its next growth engine. This year, the company is ramping up spending on research and development to $4.5 billion.
Increasingly, Moderna is exploring gene-based medicines and different applications of its experience with messenger RNA and lipid nanoparticles, the fatty spheres used to deliver its COVID-19 shot.
With the OriCiro deal, Moderna said it gained “best-in-class” tools for the synthesis of plasmid DNA, while the licensing agreement with Life Edit gave it access to a library of gene editing tools that it said could potentially allow for more versatile delivery.
Its three-year collaboration with Vertex Pharmaceuticals is also focused on new delivery approaches — in the lungs to treat cystic fibrosis. That team-up was followed a year later by Moderna’s deal with California startup Metagenomi that gave it access to the startup’s CRISPR-based gene editing tools.
With Generation Bio, Moderna plans to advance “in vivo immune cell targeting as a new class of genetic medicines.”
Broadly, Moderna wants to use its messenger RNA-based vaccine technology for diseases beyond COVID. Sales of its COVID-19 vaccine are forecast to fall to only a third of its 2022 total, and its $130 list price has drawn sharp criticism in the U.S.
Moderna’s mRNA-based experimental flu vaccine showed mixed results in Phase 3 trial data reported last month, and the company anticipates reporting data from another Phase 3 trial soon. The company also expects to submit an approval application for its respiratory syncytial virus vaccine candidate in the U.S. this year after it reported positive results in January.
Merck & Co. has licensed Moderna’s personalized cancer vaccine, which showed promise in a mid-phase study in late 2022 and could enter a Phase 3 trial this year.